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Adult Indications & Dosage
Pediatric Indications & Dosage
Warnings & Precautions
Adverse Reactions
Drug Interactions
Use in Specific Populations
Administration & Monitoring
Clinical Studies
How Supplied
Patient Counseling Information
Precautions with Alcohol
Brand Names
Look-Alike Names

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Gloria Picoy [2]; Sree Teja Yelamanchili, MBBS [3]


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Decitabine is an antineoplastic agent that is FDA approved for the treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Common adverse reactions include neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, anemia and pyrexia.

Adult Indications and Dosage

FDA-Labeled Indications and Dosage (Adult)

Decitabine is indicated for treatment of patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) including previously treated and untreated, de novo and secondary MDS of all French-American-British subtypes and intermediate-1, intermediate-2, and high-risk International Prognostic Scoring System groups.

  • Treatment Regimen – Option 1:
  • Dose of 15 mg/m2 by continuous intravenous infusion over 3 hours repeated every 8 hours for 3 days
  • This cycle should be repeated every 6 weeks
  • Patients may be premedicated with standard anti-emetic therapy.
  • Treatment Regimen – Option 2
  • Dose of 20 mg/m2 by continuous intravenous infusion over 1 hour repeated daily for 5 days
  • This cycle should be repeated every 4 weeks
  • Patients may be premedicated with standard anti-emetic therapy

Off-Label Use and Dosage (Adult)

Guideline-Supported Use

There is limited information regarding Off-Label Guideline-Supported Use of Decitabine in adult patients.

Non–Guideline-Supported Use

Pediatric Indications and Dosage

FDA-Labeled Indications and Dosage (Pediatric)

Safety and efficacy not established in pediatric patients

Off-Label Use and Dosage (Pediatric)

Guideline-Supported Use

There is limited information regarding Off-Label Guideline-Supported Use of Decitabine in pediatric patients.

Non–Guideline-Supported Use

There is limited information regarding Off-Label Non–Guideline-Supported Use of Decitabine in pediatric patients.




Neutropenia and Thrombocytopenia

Treatment with decitabine is associated with neutropenia and thrombocytopenia. Complete blood and platelet counts should be performed as needed to monitor response and toxicity, but at a minimum, prior to each dosing cycle. After administration of the recommended dosage for the first cycle, treatment for subsequent cycles should be adjusted. Clinicians should consider the need for early institution of growth factors and/or antimicrobial agents for the prevention or treatment of infections in patients with MDS. Myelosuppression and worsening neutropenia may occur more frequently in the first or second treatment cycles, and may not necessarily indicate progression of underlying MDS.

Adverse Reactions

Clinical Trials Experience

Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical trials of a drug cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of another drug and may not reflect the rates observed in practice.

Most Commonly Occurring Adverse Reactions: neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, anemia, fatigue, pyrexia, nausea, cough, petechiae, constipation, diarrhea, and hyperglycemia.

Adverse Reactions Most Frequently (≥ 1%) Resulting in Clinical Intervention in the Phase 3 Trials in the decitabine Arm:

Discussion of Adverse Reactions Information

Decitabine was studied in 3 single-arm studies (N = 66, N = 98, N = 99) and 1 controlled supportive care study (N = 83 decitabine, N = 81 supportive care ). The data described below reflect exposure to decitabine in 83 patients in the MDS trial. In the trial, patients received 15 mg/m2 intravenously every 8 hours for 3 days every 6 weeks. The median number of decitabine cycles was 3 (range 0 to 9).

Table 1 presents all adverse events regardless of causality occurring in at least 5% of patients in the decitabine group and at a rate greater than supportive care.

Discussion of Clinically Important Adverse Reactions

In the controlled trial using decitabine dosed at 15 mg/m2, administered by continuous intravenous infusion over 3 hours repeated every 8 hours for 3 days, the highest incidence of Grade 3 or Grade 4 adverse events in the decitabine arm were neutropenia (87%), thrombocytopenia (85%), febrile neutropenia (23%) and leukopenia (22%). Bone marrow suppression was the most frequent cause of dose reduction, delay and discontinuation. Six patients had fatal events associated with their underlying disease and myelosuppression (anemia, neutropenia, and thrombocytopenia) that were considered at least possibly related to drug treatment [See Warnings and Precautions (5.1)]. Of the 83 decitabine-treated patients, 8 permanently discontinued therapy for adverse events; compared to 1 of 81 patients in the supportive care arm.

In a single-arm MDS study (N=99) decitabine was dosed at 20 mg/m2 intravenous, infused over one hour daily for 5 consecutive days of a 4 week cycle. Table 2 presents all adverse events regardless of causality occurring in at least 5% of patients.

Discussion of Clinically Important Adverse Reactions

In the single-arm study (N=99) when decitabine was dosed at 20 mg/m2 intravenous, infused over one hour daily for 5 consecutive days, the highest incidence of Grade 3 or Grade 4 adverse events were neutropenia (37%), thrombocytopenia (24%) and anemia (22%). Seventy-eight percent of patients had dose delays, the median duration of this delay was 7 days and the largest percentage of delays were due to hematologic toxicities. Hematologic toxicities and infections were the most frequent causes of dose delays and discontinuation. Eight patients had fatal events due to infection and/or bleeding (seven of which occurred in the clinical setting of myelosuppression) that were considered at least possibly related to drug treatment. Nineteen of 99 patients permanently discontinued therapy for adverse events.

No overall difference in safety was detected between patients > 65 years of age and younger patients in these myelodysplasia trials. No significant gender differences in safety or efficacy were detected. Patients with renal or hepatic dysfunction were not studied. Insufficient numbers of non-white patients were available to draw conclusions in these clinical trials.

Serious Adverse Events that occurred in patients receiving decitabine regardless of causality, not previously reported in Tables 1 and 2 include:

Postmarketing Experience

The following adverse reactions have been identified during post-approval use of decitabine. Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.

Cases of Sweet’s Syndrome (acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis) have been reported.

Drug Interactions

Drug interaction studies with decitabine have not been conducted. In vitro studies in human liver microsomes suggest that decitabine is unlikely to inhibit or induce cytochrome P450 enzymes. In vitro metabolism studies have suggested that decitabine is not a substrate for human liver cytochrome P450 enzymes. As plasma protein binding of decitabine is negligible (<1%), interactions due to displacement of more highly protein bound drugs from plasma proteins are not expected.

Use in Specific Populations


Pregnancy Category (FDA): D Decitabine can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of decitabine in pregnant women.

The developmental toxicity of decitabine was examined in mice exposed to single IP (intraperitoneal) injections (0, 0.9 and 3.0 mg/m2, approximately 2% and 7% of the recommended daily clinical dose, respectively) over gestation days 8, 9, 10 or 11. No maternal toxicity was observed but reduced fetal survival was observed after treatment at 3 mg/m2 and decreased fetal weight was observed at both dose levels. The 3 mg/m2 dose elicited characteristic fetal defects for each treatment day, including supernumerary ribs (both dose levels), fused vertebrae and ribs, cleft palate, vertebral defects, hind-limb defects and digital defects of fore- and hind-limbs. In rats given a single IP injection of 2.4, 3.6 or 6 mg/m2 (approximately 5, 8, or 13% the daily recommended clinical dose, respectively) on gestation days 9-12, no maternal toxicity was observed. No live fetuses were seen at any dose when decitabine was injected on gestation day 9. A significant decrease in fetal survival and reduced fetal weight at doses greater than 3.6 mg/m2 was seen when decitabine was given on gestation day 10. Increased incidences of vertebral and rib anomalies were seen at all dose levels, and induction of exophthalmia, exencephaly, and cleft palate were observed at 6.0 mg/m2. Increased incidence of foredigit defects was seen in fetuses at doses greater than 3.6 mg/m2. Reduced size and ossification of long bones of the fore-limb and hind-limb were noted at 6.0 mg/m2. If this drug is used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant while taking this drug, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to the fetus. Women of child bearing potential should be advised to avoid becoming pregnant while taking decitabine.
Pregnancy Category (AUS): There is no Australian Drug Evaluation Committee (ADEC) guidance on usage of Decitabine in women who are pregnant.

Labor and Delivery

There is no FDA guidance on use of Decitabine during labor and delivery.

Nursing Mothers

It is not known whether decitabine or its metabolites are excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, and because of the potential for serious adverse reactions from decitabine in nursing infants, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.

Pediatric Use

The safety and effectiveness of decitabine in pediatric patients have not been established.

Geriatic Use

Of the total number of patients exposed to decitabine in the controlled clinical trial, 61 of 83 patients were age 65 and over, while 21 of 83 patients were age 75 and over. No overall differences in safety or effectiveness were observed between these subjects and younger subjects, and other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients, but greater sensitivity of some older individuals cannot be ruled out.


There is no FDA guidance on the use of Decitabine with respect to specific gender populations.


There is no FDA guidance on the use of Decitabine with respect to specific racial populations.

Renal Impairment

There are no data on the use of decitabine in patients with renal dysfunction; therefore, decitabine should be used with caution in these patients.

Hepatic Impairment

There are no data on the use of decitabine in patients with hepatic dysfunction; therefore, decitabine should be used with caution in these patients.

Females of Reproductive Potential and Males

The effect of decitabine on postnatal development and reproductive capacity was evaluated in mice administered a single 3 mg/m2 IP injection (approximately 7% the recommended daily clinical dose) on day 10 of gestation. Body weights of males and females exposed in utero to decitabine were significantly reduced relative to controls at all postnatal time points. No consistent effect on fertility was seen when female mice exposed in utero were mated to untreated males. Untreated females mated to males exposed in utero showed decreased fertility at 3 and 5 months of age (36% and 0% pregnancy rate, respectively). In male mice given IP injections of 0.15, 0.3 or 0.45 mg/m2 decitabine (approximately 0.3% to 1% the recommended clinical dose) 3 times a week for 7 weeks, decitabine did not affect survival, body weight gain or hematological measures (hemoglobin and WBC counts). Testes weights were reduced, abnormal histology was observed and significant decreases in sperm number were found at doses ≥ 0.3 mg/m2. In females mated to males dosed with ≥ 0.3 mg/m2 decitabine, pregnancy rate was reduced and preimplantation loss was significantly increased.

Immunocompromised Patients

There is no FDA guidance one the use of Decitabine in patients who are immunocompromised.

Administration and Monitoring




There is limited information regarding Decitabine Monitoring in the drug label.

IV Compatibility

There is limited information regarding the compatibility of Decitabine and IV administrations.


There is no known antidote for overdosage with decitabine. Higher doses are associated with increased myelosuppression including prolonged neutropenia and thrombocytopenia. Standard supportive measures should be taken in the event of an overdose.


Systematic (IUPAC) name
CAS number 2353-33-5
ATC code L01BC08
PubChem 451668
DrugBank DB01262
Chemical data
Formula Template:OrganicBox atomTemplate:OrganicBox atomTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBox atomTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBox atomTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBoxTemplate:OrganicBox 
Mol. mass 228.206 g/mol
SMILES eMolecules & PubChem
Pharmacokinetic data
Bioavailability ?
Protein binding <1%
Metabolism ?
Half life 30 minutes
Excretion ?
Therapeutic considerations
Pregnancy cat.


Legal status

Template:Unicode Prescription only

Routes Intravenous

Mechanism of Action

Decitabine is believed to exert its antineoplastic effects after phosphorylation and direct incorporation into DNA and inhibition of DNA methyltransferase, causing hypomethylation of DNA and cellular differentiation or apoptosis. Decitabine inhibits DNA methylation in vitro, which is achieved at concentrations that do not cause major suppression of DNA synthesis. Decitabine-induced hypomethylation in neoplastic cells may restore normal function to genes that are critical forthe control of cellulardifferentiation and proliferation. In rapidly dividing cells, the cytotoxicity of decitabine may also be attributed to the formation of covalent adducts between DNA methyltransferase and decitabine incorporated into DNA. Non-proliferating cells are relatively insensitive to decitabine.


Decitabine has the following structural formula:


Decitabine has been shown to induce hypomethylation both in vitro and in vivo. However, there have been no studies of decitabine-induced hypomethylation and pharmacokinetic parameters.


Pharmacokinetic parameters were evaluated in patients. Eleven patients received 20 mg/m2 infused over 1 hour intravenously (treatment Option 2), Fourteen patients received 15 mg/m2 infused over 3 hours (treatment Option 1). PK parameters are shown in Table 3. Plasma concentration-time profiles after discontinuation of infusion showed a biexponential decline. The CL of decitabine was higher following treatment Option 2. Upon repeat doses there was no systemic accumulation of decitabine or any changes in PK parameters. Population PK analysis (N=35) showed that the cumulative AUC per cycle for treatment Option 2 was 2.3-fold lower than the cumulative AUC per cycle following treatment Option 1.

The exact route of elimination and metabolic fate of decitabine is not known in humans. One of the pathways of elimination of decitabine appears to be deamination by cytidine deaminase found principally in the liver but also in granulocytes, intestinal epithelium and whole blood.

Nonclinical Toxicology

Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis
  • Carcinogenicity studies with decitabine have not been conducted.
  • The mutagenic potential of decitabine was tested in several in vitro and in vivo systems. Decitabine increased mutation frequency in L5178Y mouse lymphoma cells, and mutations were produced in an Escherichiacoli lac-I transgene in colonic DNA of decitabine-treated mice. Decitabine caused chromosomal rearrangements in larvae of fruit flies.

Clinical Studies

Controlled Trial

A randomized open-label, multicenter, controlled trial evaluated 170 adult patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) meeting French-American-British (FAB) classification criteria and International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS) High-Risk, Intermediate-2 and Intermediate-1 prognostic scores. Eighty-nine patients were randomized to decitabine therapy plus supportive care (only 83 received decitabine), and 81 to Supportive Care (SC) alone. Patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) were not intended to be included. Of the 170 patients included in the study, independent review (adjudicated diagnosis) found that 12 patients (9 in the decitabine arm and 3 in the SC arm) had the diagnosis of AML at baseline. Baseline demographics and other patient characteristics in the Intent-to-Treat (ITT) population were similar between the 2 groups, as shown in Table 4.

Patients randomized to the decitabine arm received decitabine intravenously infused at a dose of 15 mg/m2 over a 3-hour period, every 8 hours, for 3 consecutive days. This cycle was repeated every 6 weeks, depending on the patient’s clinical response and toxicity. Supportive care consisted of blood and blood product transfusions, prophylactic antibiotics, and hematopoietic growth factors. The study endpoints were overall response rate (complete response + partial response) and time to AML or death. Responses were classified using the MDS International Working Group (IWG) criteria; patients were required to be RBC and platelet transfusion independent during the time of response. Response criteria are given in Table 5:

All patients with a CR or PR were RBC and platelet transfusion independent in the absence of growth factors.

Responses occurred in patients with an adjudicated baseline diagnosis of AML.

Single-arm Studies

Three open-label, single-arm, multicenter studies were conducted to evaluate the safety and efficacy of decitabine in MDS patients with any of the FAB subtypes. In one study conducted in North America, 99 patients with IPSS Intermediate-1, Intermediate-2, or high risk prognostic scores received decitabine by intravenous infusion at a dose of 20 mg/m2 IV over 1-hour daily, on days 1-5 of week 1 every 4 weeks (1 cycle). The results were consistent with the results of the controlled trial and summarized in Table 8.

How Supplied

Decitabine 50 mg single-dose vial

  • NDC 62856-600-01


Store at 25°C (77°F)


Drug Images

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Package and Label Display Panel

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Patient Counseling Information

Women of childbearing potential should be advised to avoid becoming pregnant while receiving treatment with decitabine and for I month afterwards, and to use effective contraception during this time.

  • Men should be advised not to father a child while receiving treatment with decitabine, and for 2 months afterwards. During these times, men with female partners of childbearing potential should use effective contraception.
  • Patients should be advised to monitor and report any symptoms of neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, or fever to their physician as soon as possible.

Precautions with Alcohol

Alcohol-Decitabine interaction has not been established. Talk to your doctor about the effects of taking alcohol with this medication.

Brand Names

Look-Alike Drug Names

There is limited information regarding Decitabine Look-Alike Drug Names in the drug label.

Drug Shortage Status



The contents of this FDA label are provided by the National Library of Medicine.

  1. "FDA LABEL: DACOGEN- decitabine injection, powder, lyophilized, for solution".


 |Label Page=Decitabine
 |Label Name=Decitabine 50 mg.png